DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY. 8 CFR Parts 103 and 212. [CIS No ; DHS Docket No. USCIS ] RIN 1615-AC03

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1 This document is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on 07/22/2015 and available online at and on FDsys.gov DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY 8 CFR Parts 103 and 212 [CIS No ; DHS Docket No. USCIS ] RIN 1615-AC03 Expansion of Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers of Inadmissibility AGENCY: Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. ACTION: Proposed rule. SUMMARY: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposes to expand eligibility for provisional waivers of certain grounds of inadmissibility based on the accrual of unlawful presence to all aliens who are statutorily eligible for a waiver of such grounds, are seeking such a waiver in connection with an immigrant visa application, and meet other conditions. The provisional waiver process currently allows certain aliens who are present in the United States to request from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) a provisional waiver of certain unlawful presence grounds of inadmissibility prior to departing from the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visas rather than applying for a waiver abroad after the immigrant visa interview using the Form I-601, Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (hereinafter Form I-601 waiver process ). DHS proposes to expand its current provisional waiver process in two principal ways. First, DHS would eliminate current limitations on the provisional waiver process that restrict eligibility to certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Under this proposed rule, the provisional waiver process would be made available to all aliens

2 who are statutorily eligible for waivers of inadmissibility based on unlawful presence and meet certain other conditions. Second, in relation to the statutory requirement that the waiver applicant demonstrate that denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to certain family members, DHS proposes to expand the provisional waiver process by eliminating the current restriction that limits extreme hardship determinations only to aliens who can establish extreme hardship to U.S. citizen spouses or parents. Under this proposed rule, an applicant for a provisional waiver would be permitted to establish the eligibility requirement of showing extreme hardship to any qualifying relative (namely, U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouses or parents). DHS is proposing to expand the provisional waiver process in the interests of encouraging eligible aliens to complete the visa process abroad, promoting family unity, and improving administrative efficiency. DATES: Submit written comments on or before [Insert date 60 days from date of publication in the FEDERAL REGISTER]. Comments on the information collection revisions in this rule, as described in the Paperwork Reduction Act section, will also be accepted until [Insert date 60 days from date of publication in the FEDERAL REGISTER]. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by DHS Docket No. USCIS , by one of the following methods: Federal erulemaking Portal: Follow this site s instructions for submitting comments. You may comments directly to USCIS at Include DHS Docket No. USCIS in the subject line of the message. Mail: Laura Dawkins, Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division, Office of Policy and Strategy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland 2

3 Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC To ensure proper handling, please reference DHS Docket No. USCIS on your correspondence. This mailing address may be used for paper, disk, or CD-ROM submissions. Hand Delivery/Courier: Laura Dawkins, Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division, Office of Policy and Strategy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC Contact Telephone Number is (202) FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Roselyn Brown-Frei, Office of Policy and Strategy, Residence and Naturalization Division, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC , Telephone (202) (this is not a toll free number). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Table of Contents: I. Executive Summary II. Public Participation III. Background A. Legal Authority B. Immigrant Visa Categories 1. Immediate Relatives, Family-Sponsored Immigrants, Employment-Based Immigrants, and Certain Special Immigrants 2. Diversity Visa Program C. Grounds of Inadmissibility D. Unlawful Presence E. Form I-601 Waiver Process 1. Form I-601 Waiver Process for Immigrant Visa Applicants Abroad 2. Difficulties with the Form I-601Waiver Process F. Provisional Waiver Process 1. Creation of Provisional Waiver 2. Impact of Provisional Waiver Process IV. Proposed Changes A. Immediate Relative, Family-Sponsored, Employment-Based, and Certain Special Immigrants 3

4 B. Diversity Immigrants C. Qualifying Relatives D. Aliens with Scheduled Immigrant Visa Interviews E. Miscellaneous Changes F Benefits of the Proposed Changes V. Public Input VI. Statutory and Regulatory Requirements A. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 B. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 C. Executive Orders and Summary 2. Background 3. Purpose of Rule 4. Current Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver Program 5. Population Affected by this Rule 6. Costs and Benefits D. Regulatory Flexibility Act E. Executive Order F. Executive Order Civil Justice Reform G. Paperwork Reduction Act II. Public Participation DHS invites all interested parties to submit written data, views, or arguments on all aspects of this proposed rule. DHS also invites comments about how the proposed rule might affect the economy, environment, or federalism. The most helpful comments will: (1) Refer to a specific portion of this proposed rule; (2) Explain the reason for any recommended change; and (3) Include data, information, or references to authority that support the recommended change. Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name and DHS Docket No. USCIS assigned to this rulemaking. Regardless of the method you used to submit comments or material, all submissions will be posted, without change, to the Federal erulemaking Portal at and will include any personal information you provide. Your entire submission will be available for the public to view. Therefore, you 4

5 may wish to consider limiting the amount of personal information that you provide. DHS may withhold information provided in comments from public viewing that it determines may impact the privacy of an individual or is deemed to be inappropriate or offensive. For additional information, please read the Privacy Act notice that is available on the link in the footer of Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to and enter this proposed rule s DHS Docket No. USCIS III. Background A. Legal Authority Section 102 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Public Law , 116 Stat. 2135), 6 U.S.C. 112, and section 103 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1103, charge the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) with the administration and enforcement of the immigration and naturalization laws of the United States. The Secretary proposes the changes in this rule under the broad authority to administer the authorities provided under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the immigration and nationality laws, and other delegated authorities. The Secretary s discretionary authority to waive the unlawful presence grounds of inadmissibility is provided in INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v). See also Homeland Security Act of 2002, sec. 451(b), 6 U.S.C. 271(b) (transferring to the Director of USCIS the immigration benefits adjudication functions of the Commissioner of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service). B. Immigrant Visa Categories 5

6 U.S. immigration laws provide avenues for U.S. citizens, LPRs, and U.S. employers to bring their families or employees permanently to the United States. Certain other categories of aliens are eligible for immigrant visas through special processes. See, e.g., INA section 201(b), 8 U.S.C. 1151(b) (describing aliens who are not subject to numerical limitations on immigration levels); INA section 203(a)-(d); 8 U.S.C. 1153(a)-(d) (providing for the allocation of immigrant visas to family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants, certain special immigrants, and diversity immigrants, as well as the derivative spouses and children of such immigrants). 1. Immediate Relatives, Family-Sponsored Immigrants, Employment-Based Immigrants, and Certain Special Immigrants Generally, if a U.S. citizen or LPR seeks to sponsor a relative for lawful permanent residence in the United States, the U.S. citizen or LPR must first file an immigrant visa petition for the relative with USCIS. 1 See INA sections 201(b)(2)(A)(i), 203(a), 204; 8 U.S.C. 1151(b)(2)(A)(i), 1153(a), 1154; 8 CFR part 204. The same is generally true with respect to a U.S. employer that wishes to petition on behalf of a noncitizen worker. See INA sections 203(b), 204; 8 U.S.C. 1153(b), 1154; 8 CFR part 204. Certain other categories of immigrants, such as special immigrants, are eligible for permanent residence through special processes. See INA sections 101(a)(27), 203(b)(4), 204(a)(1)(I); 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27), 1153(b)(4), 1154(a)(1)(I); 8 CFR part 204; 22 CFR 42.32(d). The purpose of the immigrant visa petition is to classify the alien as an intending 1 Certain immediate relatives (e.g., widows or widowers of U.S. citizens and their children) and special immigrants can self-petition for classification as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen by filing a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant. Similarly, certain employment-based categories (e.g., aliens with extraordinary ability) allow an alien to self-petition for classification as an employment-based immigrant. See INA sections 201 and 203(b)(1)(A) & (2)(B); 8 U.S.C. 1151, 1153(b)(1)(A) & (2)(B); 8 CFR 204.5(h) and (k)(4)(ii). 6

7 immigrant who is either an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen (i.e., the spouse, parent, or unmarried child of a U.S. citizen) or an alien described under the family-sponsored preference, employment-based preference, or special immigrant categories. Except with respect to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, immigrant visa petitions may also serve to classify derivatives (i.e., spouses and unmarried children) of principal beneficiaries as immigrants. See INA 203(d); 8 U.S.C. 1153(d). USCIS determines, among other things, whether an alien has the necessary familial relationship to the U.S. citizen or the LPR, has the necessary professional qualifications or skills and expertise for the position offered by the U.S. employer, or meets the requirements for the specific special immigrant category, before approving an immigrant visa petition. Approval of an immigrant visa petition does not give the beneficiary any lawful immigration status in the United States. If the beneficiary is without lawful status when the immigrant visa petition is filed, the beneficiary remains without such status even after it is approved. Once approved, the relative, employee, or special immigrant who is the beneficiary of the approved immigrant visa petition may seek to adjust status to lawful permanent residence in the United States or obtain an immigrant visa abroad at a U.S. embassy or consulate, if eligible. See INA section 204, 8 U.S.C. 1154; see also 8 CFR part 204. Many aliens present in the United States who are the beneficiaries of approved immigrant visa petitions are eligible to adjust to LPR status while remaining in the United States. See, e.g., INA section 245, 8 U.S.C. 1255; 8 CFR part 245. Other aliens, however, are ineligible to adjust status in the United States. For example, aliens who entered the United States without inspection and admission or parole, or who are not in a lawful immigration status, are generally ineligible to adjust status in the United States. See INA section 245(a), (c); 8 U.S.C. 1255(a), (c); see also 8 CFR 245.1(b)-(c) (describing aliens who are ineligible to apply for adjustment of status or who 7

8 are restricted from applying unless they meet certain conditions). An alien who is unable to adjust status in the United States must obtain an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad before he or she can be lawfully admitted to the United States as an immigrant. An alien who is eligible to apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence in the United States can also choose to apply for an immigrant visa and obtain that visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad through consular processing. If an alien seeks an immigrant visa abroad through consular processing, USCIS forwards the approved immigrant visa petition to the DOS National Visa Center (NVC), which completes initial processing of petition-based immigrant visa applications. The NVC notifies the alien when he or she can start the immigrant visa process and will request, among other things, that the alien pay the immigrant visa processing fee and submit the necessary documents. After receiving the fee and necessary documents, the NVC schedules the alien for an immigrant visa interview with a DOS consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad. During the interview, the DOS consular officer determines whether the alien is admissible to the United States and eligible for an immigrant visa. 2. Diversity Visa Program An alien may also immigrate to the United States through the Diversity Visa program administered by DOS. See INA section 203(c), 8 U.S.C. 1153(c); 22 CFR Under the Diversity Visa program, up to 55,000 immigrant visas and adjustment of status applications can be approved annually for aliens who are from countries with low immigration rates to the United States. 2 See INA section 201(e), 8 U.S.C. 1151(e). An alien seeking to immigrate as a diversity 2 INA section 203(c) authorizes up to 55,000 immigrant visas each fiscal year for aliens from countries with low admissions during the previous five years. However, this number is reduced by up to 5,000 for applicants seeking adjustment of status under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), Pub. L

9 immigrant submits an entry with the Diversity Visa program during the designated registration period. After the registration period closes, DOS randomly selects aliens from the pool of registrants to continue the Diversity Visa process. Being selected to participate in the Diversity Visa program does not afford the selectee any lawful immigration status. If selected and eligible, an alien may be authorized to seek LPR status either through adjustment of status in the United States or through consular processing abroad with DOS. If the alien chooses to use the consular process, he or she must submit an immigrant visa application (Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application) to the DOS Kentucky Consular Center (KCC), which completes initial processing of the immigrant visa applications from Diversity Visa program selectees and derivatives. If the immigrant visa application is complete and an immigrant visa is available, the KCC schedules the alien for an immigrant visa interview abroad. The DOS consular officer determines whether the alien is admissible to the United States and eligible for the immigrant visa. A program selectee or derivative (such as the spouse or minor child of a program selectee), however, can obtain an immigrant visa only in the fiscal year for which he or she was selected, provided the numerical limits have not been reached. See 22 CFR 42.33(c)-(f). Diversity Visa program processing is different from the petition-based immigrant visa process, as Diversity Visa program selectees and their derivatives are not beneficiaries of approved immigrant visa petitions. DOS completes initial processing of program selectees and derivatives at the KCC instead of at the NVC. The Diversity Visa program pre-processing steps aim to ensure that DOS can issue as many visas to program selectees and derivatives as possible 100, title II, secs , 111 Stat. 2160, (Nov. 19, 1997), amended by Pub. L , 111 Stat (Dec. 2, 1997) (8 U.S.C note). 9

10 during the particular fiscal year. For example, Diversity Visa program selectees and their derivatives submit their immigrant visa applications to the KCC without the additional documents required for immigrant visa processing. Program selectees and derivatives submit the additional required documents to the DOS consular officer as part of the immigrant visa interview and process. In addition, unlike immediate-relative, family-sponsored, employmentbased, and special-immigrant visa applicants, Diversity Visa program selectees and their derivatives pay their immigrant visa processing fees at their immigrant visa interviews rather than before DOS schedules the interviews. C. Grounds of Inadmissibility U.S. immigration laws specify acts, conditions, and conduct that bar aliens from being admitted to the United States or from obtaining visas, including immigrant visas. See INA section 212(a), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a) (listing the grounds of inadmissibility). The Secretary has the discretion to waive certain inadmissibility grounds if an alien applies for a waiver and meets the relevant statutory and regulatory requirements. See, e.g., INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v); 8 CFR If the Secretary grants a waiver of inadmissibility, the waived inadmissibility ground no longer bars the alien s admission, readmission, or immigrant visa eligibility. See 8 CFR 212.7(a)(4). D. Unlawful Presence The inadmissibility ground based on the accrual of unlawful presence in the United States is found at INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(i). Under that provision, an alien who was unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days but less than one year and who then departs voluntarily from the United States before removal proceedings begin is inadmissible to the United States for 3 years from the date of departure. See INA section 10

11 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(i)(I). An alien who was unlawfully present in the United States for one year or more and who then departs the United States before, during, or after removal proceedings is inadmissible for 10 years from the date of departure. See INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(i)(II). These 3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars do not take effect unless and until the alien departs from the United States. 3 See, e.g., Matter of Rodarte-Roman, 23 I. & N. Dec. 905 (BIA 2006); 22 CFR 40.92(a)-(b). Once the 3- or 10-year unlawful presence bar is triggered, the alien must apply for and be granted a waiver of inadmissibility before he or she can be issued an immigrant visa and be admitted to the United States for permanent residence. The Secretary has the discretion to waive the 3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars for an alien seeking admission to the United States as an immigrant, if he or she demonstrates that the refusal of his or her admission to the United States would cause extreme hardship to the alien s U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent. See INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v). Because approval of the waiver is discretionary, the alien also must establish that he or she merits a favorable exercise of discretion. See INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v). Accordingly, USCIS may deny a waiver application as a matter of discretion, even if the applicant meets all of the other regulatory requirements. E. Form I-601 Waiver Process 1. Form I-601 Waiver Process for Immigrant Visa Applicants Abroad The 3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars to admissibility under INA section 3 By statute, certain aliens do not accrue unlawful presence for purposes of INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(i). For example, aliens under the age of 18 do not accrue unlawful presence. See INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(iii)(I), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(iii)(I). Similarly, aliens with pending asylum claims generally do not accrue unlawful presence while their asylum applications are pending. See INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(iii)(II), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(iii)(II). See INA sections 212(a)(9)(B)(iii)(III), (IV), and (V), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(iii)(III), (IV), and (V) for additional exceptions to the accrual of unlawful presence. 11

12 212(a)(9)(B) do not apply unless and until an alien who accrued sufficient unlawful presence departs from the United States. Many aliens who would trigger these bars upon departure from the United States are ineligible to adjust status in the United States and must travel abroad to obtain an immigrant visa from DOS. DOS cannot issue an immigrant visa to an inadmissible alien unless he or she applies for, and USCIS approves, a waiver of inadmissibility, if a waiver is authorized under the INA for the specific ground of inadmissibility. See 22 CFR 40.6, 40.9, 40.92(c). Under the Form I-601 waiver process, an immigrant visa applicant may file an Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, Form I-601, with USCIS after the DOS consular officer makes the inadmissibility determination during the immigrant visa interview abroad. 4 Once the alien files the Form I-601 waiver application, he or she must remain abroad while USCIS adjudicates the waiver application. Currently, USCIS adjudicates these Form I-601 waiver applications at the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) in the United States. 5 Upon approving the Form I-601 waiver application, USCIS notifies DOS so that DOS may issue the immigrant visa if the alien is otherwise eligible. If USCIS denies the Form I-601 waiver application, the alien remains inadmissible and, therefore, ineligible for an immigrant visa and is generally unable to lawfully return to the United States. If the alien is inadmissible based on the 3- or 10-year unlawful presence bar, he or she must remain outside of the United States for the relevant 3- or 10-year period before he or she can reapply for an immigrant visa 4 To be eligible for the waiver, the alien must meet all requirements described in INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), including the requirement to demonstrate that refusing the alien s admission to the United States would result in extreme hardship to the alien s U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent. This same requirement applies to the Form I- 601A provisional waiver process. The fundamental distinction between the Form I-601 and Form I-601A processes is the manner in which the applicant applies for the waiver. 5 The alien files the waiver application from abroad by sending it to a USCIS lockbox facility in the United States. In limited circumstances, as outlined in the Form I-601 instructions, an alien may file a waiver application at a USCIS international office. 12

13 without having to obtain a waiver. An alien may appeal the denial of a Form I-601 waiver application with the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). Alternatively, the alien can file another Form I-601 waiver application. 2. Difficulties with the Form I-601 Waiver Process Immigrant visa applicants typically encounter difficulties when seeking waivers of the 3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars through the Form I-601 waiver process abroad. After attending the immigrant visa interview with DOS, these applicants must gather the necessary information and supporting documents, file their Form I-601 waiver applications with USCIS, and typically wait abroad for at least several months for a decision on their applications based on the average adjudication time for Form I-601 waiver applications. 6 During this period, the applicant must endure separation from U.S. citizen and LPR family members in the United States. Such separation may cause some U.S. citizens, LPRs, and their families to experience emotional and financial hardships while the alien relative waits abroad for a decision on his or her application. If the waiver is approved, and the alien is otherwise eligible for the immigrant visa, the alien must then return to DOS to pick up the immigrant visa. Due to these difficulties and uncertainties, many alien relatives of U.S. citizens and LPRs are reluctant to leave the United States to obtain an immigrant visa. Inefficiencies in the Form I-601 waiver process also create costs for the Federal Government. If a DOS officer at a U.S. Embassy or consulate determines that the applicant is inadmissible based on a ground that can be waived, the DOS officer informs the applicant about the option to file a waiver application with USCIS. After the interview, DOS puts the immigrant 6 The average adjudication time of Form I-601 waivers is currently five months based on information gathered from USCIS s Nebraska Service Center on March 3, Updated processing times for Form I-601 are also posted on the USCIS website at: 13

14 visa process on hold while waiting for the applicant to submit the Form I-601 waiver application and for USCIS s decision on the waiver. If a waiver is approved, DOS must reschedule the applicant for additional visa processing at a U.S. Embassy or consulate, which uses valuable DOS consular officer resources that could be used for processing other visa applications. F. Provisional Waiver Process 1. Creation of the Provisional Waiver Process In 2013, DHS sought to partially address the difficulties and inefficiencies of the Form I- 601 waiver process through rulemaking. DHS published a rule establishing a provisional waiver process, which streamlines certain aspects of the Form I-601 waiver process, facilitates immigrant visa issuance, and promotes family unity. See 78 FR 536 (Jan. 3, 2013); see also 77 FR (Apr. 2, 2012) (proposed rule). The goal of the provisional waiver process is to reduce the adverse impact of the Form I-601 waiver process on families in the United States. 7 In particular, the current provisional waiver process permits certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are physically present in the United States to apply for a provisional waiver of the 3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars before departing for their immigrant visa interviews abroad. The provisional waiver is available to only those aliens who will be inadmissible on account of the 3-year or 10-year unlawful presence bar at the time of the immigrant visa interview. Aliens who, at the time of the immigrant visa interview, may be inadmissible based on another ground of inadmissibility or multiple grounds of inadmissibility, are not eligible for provisional waivers. USCIS s approval of a provisional waiver allows DOS to issue the immigrant visa without the further delay associated with the Form I-601 waiver process, if the 7 Promoting family unity has always played a significant role in the development of U.S. immigration laws. See, e.g., Holder v. Martinez Gutierrez, 132 S. Ct. 2011, 2019 (2012); INS v. Errico, 385 U.S. 214, (1966). 14

15 applicant is otherwise eligible. See 8 CFR 212.7(e). DHS initially limited eligibility for provisional waivers to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (spouses, parents and children (under the age of 21) of U.S. citizens). The intention was to prioritize the family reunification of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens over other categories of aliens. Limiting the program also allowed DHS to assess the initial effectiveness of a provisional waiver process. Accordingly, DHS restricted eligibility for provisional waivers to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who could demonstrate that their U.S. citizen spouses or parents would suffer extreme hardship if the immediate relatives were refused admission to the United States. See 78 FR at 542. Although other aliens are eligible for waivers of the 3- and 10- year unlawful presence bars under the Form I-601 waiver process, the provisional waiver process was not made available to them. DHS limited eligibility to immediate relatives able to demonstrate extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen spouse or parent. See 78 FR at 543 (describing rationale for eligibility limitations). Immediate relatives who can show extreme hardship to only their LPR spouses or parents, and other categories of immigrant visa applicants, are ineligible to obtain a provisional waiver under the current regulation Impact of Provisional Waiver Process In the 2013 final rule, DHS noted that it would consider expanding provisional waiver eligibility after DHS and DOS assessed the effectiveness of the provisional waiver process and the operational impact it may have on existing agency processes and resources. See 78 FR at (citing Beach Commc ns v. FCC, 508 U.S. 307, 316 (1993) (observing that policymakers must be allowed leeway to approach a perceived problem incrementally )). 8 In the 2012 proposed rule, DHS explained that the provisional waiver process would not be extended to nonimmediate relatives of U.S. citizens or immediate relatives who can only show extreme hardship to their LPR spouses or parents. See 77 FR Commenters to the proposed provisional waiver rule from April 2, 2012 objected to both limitations. See 78 FR at

16 Preliminary review of the provisional waiver process has shown that it can reduce the time that relatives are separated from their U.S. citizen families, reduce the processing costs incurred by DOS and DHS, limit the number of exchanges between DOS and DHS, and reduce the number of immigrant visa cases DOS has to either reschedule or place on hold under the Form I-601 waiver process. DHS initially anticipated receiving as many as 62,348 provisional waiver applications per year and allocated resources accordingly. USCIS, however, received only about 39,000 applications in fiscal year As a result, both DHS and DOS have determined that there would not be a significant operational impact if DHS expanded eligibility for provisional waivers to include other statutorily eligible aliens who are beneficiaries of approved immigrant visa petitions and can establish extreme hardship to their U.S. citizen or LPR spouses or parents. IV. Proposed Changes DHS proposes to expand the class of aliens who may be eligible for a provisional waiver beyond immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to aliens in all statutorily eligible immigrant visa categories. Such aliens include family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants, certain special immigrants, and Diversity Visa program selectees, together with their derivative spouses and children. See proposed 8 CFR 212.7(e)(3)(iv). DHS also proposes to expand who may be considered a qualifying relative for purposes of the extreme hardship determination to include LPR spouses and parents. This proposed expansion will permit any alien seeking an immigrant visa who would be eligible to apply for a Form I-601 waiver of unlawful presence abroad to now apply for a provisional waiver before leaving the United States to attend his or her immigrant visa interview abroad. Aliens who will become eligible for a provisional waiver, including derivative spouses and children, would still need to meet all other requirements of proposed 8 CFR 212.7(e) to 16

17 obtain the waiver. 9 Under this proposed rule, any alien who meets the eligibility requirements for a provisional waiver and who is pursuing consular processing abroad can apply for the waiver irrespective of his or her current immigration status in the United States. 10 DHS does not propose to change any eligibility requirements for a provisional waiver other than those described in this rulemaking. A. Immediate Relatives, Family-Sponsored Immigrants, Employment-Based Immigrants, and Certain Special Immigrants Under the proposed rule, an alien would be eligible for a provisional waiver if, among other criteria, he or she has an immigrant visa case pending with DOS based on an approved immigrant visa petition and has paid the immigrant visa processing fee. Aliens with an approved immigrant visa petition include: 11 A beneficiary of an approved Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, or Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and Special Immigrant, Form I-360 (classifying the alien as immigrant visa applicant under INA section 201(b)(2), 8 U.S.C. 1151(b)(2), or INA section 203(a) or (b), 8 U.S.C. 1153(a) or (b)); A beneficiary of an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140 (classifying the alien as immigrant visa applicant under INA section 203(b), 8 U.S.C. 1153(b)); and A spouse or child, as defined in subparagraph (A), (B), (C), (D) or (E) of INA section 9 Although derivative spouses and children apply for an immigrant visa based on their relationship to a principal beneficiary, the admissibility determination is made individually for each immigrant visa applicant. See INA 212, 221(g), 291, 8 U.S.C. 1182, 1201(g), 1361; 22 CFR 40.6, If the derivative is inadmissible, he or she must apply for a provisional waiver and meet the eligibility requirements independent of the principal. 10 As stated in the 2013 rule, an alien s current immigration status is not relevant for purposes of seeking a provisional waiver of an unlawful presence ground of inadmissibility. See 78 FR at 547. No alien, including one who is in Temporary Protected Status, has received deferred action, or is currently in a lawful nonimmigrant status, is barred from seeking a provisional waiver as long as the alien meets the eligibility requirements stated in the rule. 11 A Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, Form I-730, is not an immigrant visa petition and is therefore not a basis for filing a provisional waiver application. 17

18 101(b)(1), 8 U.S.C. 1101(b)(1), if accompanying or following-to-join an alien spouse or parent seeking to immigrate under INA section 203(a) or (b), 8 U.S.C. 1153(a) or (b), or under INA section 203(d), 8 U.S.C. 1153(d). B. Diversity Immigrants Under the proposed rule, an alien would also be eligible for a provisional waiver based on selection by DOS to participate in the Diversity Visa program under INA section 203(c), 8 U.S.C. 1153(c) for the fiscal year for which the alien registered. Expanding the provisional waiver process to Diversity Visa program selectees and their derivatives requires USCIS to develop procedures that apply only to these applicants because such applicants do not have approved immigrant visa petitions. DOS s selection of an alien for the Diversity Visa program is for these purposes being considered the functional equivalent of having an approved immigrant visa petition. See proposed 8 CFR 212.7(e)(3)(iv). Additionally, Diversity Visa program processing must be completed by the end of the fiscal year for the program year for which the alien registered. See INA section 204(a)(1)(I)(ii)(II), 8 U.S.C. 1154(a)(1)(I)(ii)(II). To meet the time constraints of the Diversity Visa program, USCIS would consider an immigrant visa case pending as soon as DOS selects the alien for the program. See proposed 8 CFR 212.7(e)(3)(iv) and 8 CFR 212.7(e)(5)(ii)(F). Because Diversity Visa program selectees and derivatives do not have to pay the immigrant visa processing fee until the immigrant visa interview, DHS proposes that such aliens would not have to provide proof of payment of the immigrant visa processing fee when they apply for a provisional waiver. See proposed 8 CFR 212.7(e)(3)(iv) and 8 CFR 212.7(e)(5)(ii)(F). C. Qualifying Relatives 18

19 DHS proposes to expand eligibility for provisional waivers to include aliens who can establish extreme hardship to an LPR spouse or parent. This proposed expansion would allow immigrant visa applicants, including diversity visa applicants, to seek provisional waivers based on extreme hardship to all categories of qualifying relatives authorized by statute. See proposed 8 CFR 212.7(e)(3)(vi) and 8 CFR 212.7(e)(8). Although the benefits of this rule largely would accrue to the expanded group of aliens newly eligible to apply for provisional waivers under the rule, certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens will also experience benefits from this rule. For example, an alien who is the beneficiary of an immediate relative petition filed by his or her U.S. citizen son or daughter who is not a qualifying relative for purposes of the waiver could seek a provisional waiver based on extreme hardship that would be suffered by the alien s LPR spouse. D. Aliens with Scheduled Immigrant Visa Interviews DHS proposes to limit eligibility for provisional waivers under this rulemaking to aliens, other than immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, who have not had their immigrant visa interviews scheduled before the effective date of a final rule. DHS also proposes that immediate relatives of U.S. citizens will be eligible to file for provisional waivers if they have not had their immigrant visa interviews scheduled before January 3, 2013, even if they may not have been previously eligible to apply for provisional waivers under the current rule. 12 For these purposes, DHS will use the date that DOS initially acted to schedule the immigrant visa interview, not the date that the alien is scheduled to appear for the immigrant visa interview. 12 Aliens who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens but who can only demonstrate that the denial of admission would cause extreme hardship to an LPR spouse or parent (rather than a U.S. citizen spouse or parent) are currently ineligible for provisional waivers. 19

20 As reflected in the 2013 rulemaking, these restrictions are necessary to make the process operationally manageable without creating delays in the processing of other petitions or applications filed with USCIS or in the DOS immigrant visa process. If the proposed rule included aliens who were scheduled for an interview prior to the effective date of a final rule, the projected volume of cases could increase and create backlogs not only in the provisional waiver process, but also in adjudication of other USCIS benefits. The increased volume could also adversely impact DOS and its immigrant visa process. 13 E. Miscellaneous Changes This rule also proposes to remove from the affected regulations all unnecessary procedural instructions regarding office names and locations, position titles and responsibilities, and form numbers. Prescribing an office name, such as Application Support Center, is unnecessary and restricts USCIS ability to vary work locations as necessary to address its workload needs, better utilize its resources, and serve its customers. See, e.g., proposed 8 CFR 212.7(e)(3)(ii) (replacing the term USCIS ASC with location in the United States designated by USCIS ). Likewise, requiring a specific form to be filed for a certain benefit in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is generally unnecessary, and enumerating specific form numbers reduces the agency s ability to modify or modernize its business processes to address changing needs. See, e.g., proposed 8 CFR 212.7(e)(5)(i) (replacing Form I-601A with application for a provisional unlawful presence waiver ). Finally, listing specific officer titles for consideration of provisional waiver applications restricts USCIS flexibility in the adjudication of immigration benefits. See, e.g., proposed 8 CFR 212.7(e)(12)(i)(C) (removing consular officer ). 13 Focusing on U.S. citizens and their immediate relative family members in the expansion of this discretionary procedure also is consistent with permissible distinctions that may be drawn between U.S. citizens and aliens and between classes of aliens in immigration laws and policies. See, e.g., Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787, 792 (1977); Mathews v. Diaz, 426 U.S. 67, 81 (1976). 20

21 Authorities and functions of DHS to administer and enforce the immigration laws are appropriately delegated to DHS employees and others in accordance with section 102(b)(1) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, 6 U.S.C. 112(b)(1); section 103(a) of the INA, 8 USC 1103(a); and 8 CFR 2.1. In addition, USCIS is proposing to revise 8 CFR 212.7(e)(8) by removing the superfluous sentence that states USCIS may require the alien and the U.S. citizen petitioner to appear for an interview pursuant to 8 CFR 103.2(b)(9). USCIS already has the authority to require an applicant or petitioner to appear for an interview under 8 CFR 103.2(b)(9). USCIS thus retains the authority to require an interview regardless of the inclusion of such authority in 212.7(e)(8). The cross reference at 8 CFR 212.7(e)(8) was unnecessarily redundant. Finally, DHS is correcting two errors. First, in 8 CFR 103.2(b), DHS is replacing the article an with the article a, wherever the article appears before the term benefit request in paragraphs (b)(6), (b)(9), (b)(10), and (b)(12). Second, in 8 CFR 212.7(a), DHS is removing the title to effectuate the change that was intended to be made in the 2013 rule. F. Benefits of the Proposed Changes By making the provisional waiver process available to all aliens who are statutorily eligible for the waiver of unlawful presence under section 212(a)(9)(B)(v) and meet certain other conditions, DHS would be expanding the population of aliens who could benefit from a streamlined immigrant visa process. DHS believes that expanding availability of the provisional waiver process would likely reduce the overall immigrant visa processing time for eligible immigrant visa applicants, thereby saving DHS, DOS, and applicants both the time and resources currently devoted to the Form I-601 waiver process. DHS also believes that the proposed expansion would reduce the hardship that U.S. citizen and LPR families experience as a result of 21

22 separation from their alien relatives. Some immediate relatives of U.S. citizens may also benefit from the proposal to broaden the group of individuals who can serve as qualifying relatives for the provisional waiver s extreme hardship determination. V. Public Input DHS invites comments from all interested parties, including advocacy groups, nongovernmental organizations, community-based organizations, and legal representatives who specialize in immigration law, on any and all aspects of this proposed rule. DHS is specifically seeking comments on: a. The proposal to expand eligibility for provisional waivers to include the following aliens not covered by the current rule: Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens under INA section 201(b)(2), 8 U.S.C. 1151(b)(2), who can establish extreme hardship to an LPR spouse or parent as provided under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v); Family-sponsored immigrant visa applicants under INA section 203(a), 8 U.S.C. 1153(a); Employment-based immigrant visa applicants and certain special immigrants under INA section 203(b), 8 U.S.C. 1153(b); Diversity immigrants under INA section 203(c), 8 U.S.C. 1153(c); and Derivative family members of the above mentioned immigrant visa applicants, in accordance with INA section 203(d), 8 U.S.C. 1153(d). b. The proposal to limit eligibility for provisional waivers to aliens as follows: (1) for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, to those for whom DOS initially acted to schedule their immigrant visa interviews on or after January 3, 2013; and (2) for all other immigrant visa 22

23 applicants, on or after the effective date of the final rule. c. Any alternatives to this proposed rule that may be more effective than the current provisional waiver process or the amended process described in the proposed rule. VI. Statutory and Regulatory Requirements A. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 This proposed rule will not result in the expenditure by State, local and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 million or more in any one year, and it will not significantly or uniquely affect small governments. Therefore, no actions were deemed necessary under the provisions of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of B. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 This proposed rule is not a major rule as defined by section 804 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Act of This rule will not result in an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; a major increase in costs or prices; or significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or on the ability of United States-based companies to compete with foreign-based companies in domestic and export markets. C. Executive Orders and Executive Orders and direct agencies to assess the costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety effects, distributive impacts, and equity). Executive Order emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, of reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility. This rule is a significant regulatory action, although not an 23

24 economically significant regulatory action, under section 3(f) of Executive Order Accordingly, the Office of Management and Budget has reviewed this regulation. This effort is consistent with Executive Order s call for agencies to consider how best to promote retrospective analysis of rules that may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them in accordance with what has been learned. 1. Summary The proposed expansion of the provisional waiver process would create costs and benefits to provisional waiver (Form I-601A) applicants, their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) family members, and the Federal Government (namely, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS)), as summarized in Table 1. This rule would impose fee, time, and travel costs on aliens who choose to complete and submit provisional waiver applications and biometrics (namely, fingerprints, photograph, and signature) to USCIS for consideration. These costs would be $58.5 million at a 7 percent discount rate and $71.6 million at a 3 percent discount rate in present value across the 10-year period of analysis. On an annualized basis, the costs are $8.3 million and $8.4 million at 7 percent and 3 percent, respectively (see Table 1). Newly eligible provisional waiver applicants and their U.S. citizen or LPR family members would benefit from this rule. Beneficiaries of provisional waivers may experience shortened periods of separation from their family members living in the United States while they pursue an immigrant visa abroad, thus reducing any related financial and emotional strain on the family. If finalized, some immediate relatives of U.S. citizens may also benefit from the rule s broadened group of individuals who can be qualifying relatives for the provisional waiver s extreme hardship determination. Additionally, USCIS and DOS would continue to benefit from 24

25 the operational efficiencies gained from the provisional waiver s role in streamlining immigrant visa application processing, though on a larger scale than currently in place. In the absence of this rule, DHS assumes that the majority of aliens newly eligible for provisional waivers under this rule would pursue an immigrant visa through consular processing abroad and apply for waivers of unlawful presence through the Form I-601 process. Aliens who would otherwise apply for unlawful presence waivers through the Form I-601 process would incur fee, time, and travel costs similar to aliens applying for waivers through the provisional waiver process. But in the absence of this rule, Form I-601 applicants would face longer separation times from their family in the United States and less certainty regarding their application for the waiver. Table 1. Total Costs and Benefits of This Rule, Year 1-Year Year Present Values 3% Discount 7% Discount 3% Discount Rate Rate Rate Total Costs Annualized Values 7% Discount Rate Quantitative $71,622,948 $58,520,192 $8,396,394 $8,331,959 Total Benefits Qualitative Decreased amount of time that U.S. citizens or LPRs are separated from their alien family members, leading to reduced financial and emotional hardship for these families. Decreased amount of time that U.S. citizens or LPRs are separated from their alien family members, leading to reduced financial and emotional hardship for these families. 25

26 Federal Government would achieve increased efficiencies by streamlining immigrant visa processing for aliens seeking inadmissibility waivers of unlawful presence. Aliens, and their family members, would receive advance notice of USCIS s decision on their waiver application prior to leaving the United States for their immigrant visa interview abroad, offering many the certainty of knowing they have been provisionally approved for a waiver. Certain previously ineligible immediate relatives may now qualify for provisional waivers due to the broadened group of individuals who can be qualifying relatives for the waiver s extreme hardship determination. Federal Government would achieve increased efficiencies by streamlining immigrant visa processing for aliens seeking inadmissibility waivers of unlawful presence. Aliens, and their family members, would receive advance notice of USCIS s decision on their waiver application prior to leaving the United States for their immigrant visa interview abroad, offering many the certainty of knowing they have been provisionally approved for a waiver. Certain previously ineligible immediate relatives may now qualify for provisional waivers due to the broadened group of individuals who can be qualifying relatives for the waiver s extreme hardship determination. Note: The cost estimates in this table are contingent upon Form I-601A filing (or receipt) projections as well as the discount rates applied for monetized values. 2. Background Aliens who are in the United States and seeking LPR status must either obtain an immigrant visa abroad through consular processing with DOS or apply to adjust status in the United States, if eligible. Aliens present in the United States without having been inspected and admitted or paroled are typically ineligible to adjust their status in the United States. To obtain LPR status, such aliens must leave the United States for immigrant visa processing at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad. Because these aliens are present in the United States without having been inspected and admitted or paroled, many have already accrued enough unlawful presence (more than 180 days) to trigger the 3- or 10-year unlawful presence grounds of inadmissibility upon departure from the United States. Indeed, in most cases, the action these aliens must take to obtain their immigrant visa departing the United States to attend a consular 26

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